An admired longtime teacher at Amador Valley High School was recently nominated for the 2018-19 national LifeChanger of the Year award, underscoring several decades of dedication and service for students in her special ed classes.
“It was definitely a surprise” to learn about the nomination that a relative submitted last year,
Aimee Buckley, whose career at Amador spans 18 years, told the Weekly.
“Obviously, I was honored to be nominated,” Buckley told the Weekly. “The best part of the nomination was that students and former students and parents had an opportunity to go on the (nomination) website and leave me messages about how I affected them and that was really, really special.”
Parents and former students who spoke to the Weekly about Buckley said that, in fact, she’s really special as well. Motivational speaker Josh Burger, who graduated in 2010 and still lives in Pleasanton, attributes much of his success to Buckley’s influence. Learning how to tutor his peers in Buckley’s supplemental math class during senior year laid the groundwork for Burger’s future of helping others in leading by example.
“Aimee kind of guided me on how to tutor somebody in a way that’s not too coddling, so I don’t give them everything, and teach them step by step,” Burger said.
Burger describes class time with Buckley as being “always fun and casual” and that she “made learning enjoyable.”
“She had a lot of patience for certain students, all of her students, really,” he added. “She was always engaging.”
A boring classroom goes against Buckley’s teaching philosophy so “I try to...keep it entertaining but also have that depth of knowledge,” Buckley said. “I have a lot of very anxious learnings -- students who receive special education services have to fail for a long time before you can get those services -- so I try to sneak in learning.”
Kim Bentley’s older son Chandler experienced Buckley’s lighthearted approach to learning one time by tapping into one of his lifelong interests.
“He's always loved dinosaurs,” Bentley said. “People on the spectrum, they really focus and this is one of his focus things since he was little.”
In addition to advocating for Chandler to work as a TA in a library, Buckley also invited an archaeologist to her classroom for a special presentation that she put together just for him.
“She went above and beyond for that,” Bentley said. “He came in and talked with Chandler, gave a speech and gave him a little fossil. (Chandler) also decided he wanted to try to add a dinosaur mascot to Amador so she worked with the school paper and got an article in.”
Students and parents say that Buckley had a major influence on their learning experience but Buckley insists that she’s actually learned everything about teaching from them.
“My students are teaching me all the time about grit and determination and not giving up when the deck is stacked against you,” she said. “They're pretty amazing.”
The winner for the LifeChanger Award will be announced in May at a special award ceremony in Hawaii for the grand prize finalists.